Today, on my birthday, I'm struck by what an amazing thing it is to be born into this world.
The Buddhist tradition has a metaphor which illustrates the completely miraculous nature of our appearance as human beings here on this Earth. Picture an infinite ocean stretching out endlessly in all directions. Then imagine a single inner tube thrown randomly onto this limitless ocean. Next, picture a solitary sea turtle coming up for air to the surface of the water from the bottom of the sea. The likelihood of being born a human being with all of the capacity for spiritual transformation that this entails is the same chance of having the sea turtle swim up from the sea bottom to stick its head through that single inner tube! Viewed from this perspective, life itself is truly a miracle. As Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says, the true miracle is not to walk on water, gospel-style. The true miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment.
When I think of life on Earth, I'm in awe of the diversity of different kinds of people, cultures, religions, philosophies, animal and plant species, and landscapes that inhabit this planet. Truly, I feel like the proverbial "kid in a candystore." There is SO MUCH to learn, so many different perspectives to try on, so many amazing personality types, cultures, races and spiritual traditions from which to imbibe wisdom. Isn't it simply astounding? And yet all of this diversity is also part of a single web of life, where - to use the Buddhist image of the Net of Indra - every creature is like a jewel tied into a node in the net, a jewel that ceaselessly reflects every other jewel, and vice versa!
Photo: Stephen as a baby (with friend) in Pennsylvania.
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.